Support our nonprofit, community-funded journalism. Every donation doubled with Newsmatch until December 31st.


Tracking California’s deadly wildfires

By | Oct. 17, 2018

Elizabeth Castillo contributed to this story, which was updated Nov. 13, 2018.

Because there’s no longer a real wildfire season in California, the statistics never stop in their awful aggregation. Virtually everything related to fires is on the rise: acres burned, lives lost, cost to fight the blazes. The state has 78 more annual “fire days” now than it had 50 years ago.

This year is now the deadliest in recent decades. According to Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, 59 people have perished in 2018.

Most of them died this month as fire officials fought to gain the upper hand on major blazes at both ends of the state. Forty-two died in a single Northern California blaze known as the Camp Fire, which has taken more lives than any fire in recent state history. Two others died in a conflagration in and around the Southern California enclave of Malibu.

Hundreds of thousands of California residents were ordered to evacuate their homes and neighborhoods while flames indiscriminately burned their way through houses, businesses and historic sites. Soot and smoke spread across wide areas, prompting health alerts.

Full containment of the blazes could take days or weeks, due to dry winds that drive flames and spread embers.

We track key elements of the state’s wildfire damage here:

  1. California on fire
  2. Lives lost
  3. The firefighting tab

California on fire

More than a million acres can burn in a particularly bad year. This year is already one of the most destructive in recent history. These numbers combine state and federal land.

Lives lost

Wildfires have taken 59 lives in California this year, making 2018 the deadliest fire year in the state’s recent history. Most of those deaths have been related to the blaze that destroyed the Northern California town of Paradise. The numbers include people responding to the fires.

The firefighting tab

Expenses nearly always exceed the annual budget for Cal Fire. The state’s share of costs for the most recent fires has not yet been determined.


  1. California on fire
  2. Lives lost
  3. The firefighting tab

Environment Reporter

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This